Tuesday, December 31, 2013

New Years Confession: I'm coming out of the closet

Often in the past few months I've held this inward conversation with myself asking, am I afraid to live up to my full potential? am I afraid to be successful? am I afraid to be well liked and noticed? am I afraid to be myself, to be authentic? am I afraid to be happy? The scary answer following all these questions was Yes. I've made a few efforts since asking, to change the answer to Hell No!

One of them was taking my barbie blond hair which I loved and dying it dirty dish wash blond so that I could grow out my natural color without looking like a skunk. I've also been making an effort to wear make-up less, like you know to the grocery store doing the mundane. These were the first baby steps to being authentic, and let's be honest physical changes were the easiest place to start, the mental changes are the tough part.  I feel like making the physical changes is a step in the right direction to being authentic, and will help, (just as this blog does) to train my mind not to worry what others think about me.

Usually Sundays are a day when we get together with family. I began to be aware that although I am happy, I formed this habit of keeping to myself, observing, instead of interacting, and it appears that I am unhappy and not having fun. To change this, I'm attempting to smile more. It's strange but by smiling, I actually feel happier, even though I thought I was happy before, and smiling does contribute to having a more enjoyable time.

Then there's how many times do I self-sabotage? The many times I remember to pray but don't, eat the wrong thing when there are plenty of healthy choices in the fridge, stay up late even though I could go to bed early. These are little things, and maybe it sounds like I hold myself to an impossible standard, because really, we all eat the wrong thing sometimes, fall into spiritual ruts, and do things in general that we know aren't good for our bodies. Still, I like the idea of striving for something better, but I'm not going to beat myself up about it when I don't choose the best option. Part of that also lies in the goal of authenticity, and owning who I am without being ashamed.

Something else I've meant to do over the last decade is become better at conversation. I've always admired Mike's Grandma on how she is a great conversationalist, especially her ability to make you feel like you're the most important person in the world. I once complemented her on this and she told me she really appreciated the complement because it's something she's worked on her whole life, and it didn't ever come naturally. From that day I knew I wanted to be like her.

I can't rely on my past experiences to help me out. Sure, I had lots of friends in high school, but in high school you're thrown into social situations every day you can't avoid. I've found that as an adult, especially since getting married and having kids, oh it's very easy to avoid all social situations, until you've forgotten how to mingle and do small talk.

This will take time as I have spent the last decade enjoying my cocoon, and i'll admit, I didn't even care about making friends. I was perfectly happy to stay home and enjoy my alone time. I secretly love (well not so secretly anymore) to be alone. However, going through depression made me realize I had no support system outside of my husband. That turned out to be a scary place, but I only have myself to blame for avoiding every opportunity I had to make new friends in a new place. So I've come to the amazing conclusion (and I apologize if this is very mundane and old news to a lot of people) that to be a healthy, functioning, happy person, friends and social circles are actually important, even though I don't naturally crave them.

How does one do this? Especially when you're married to an introvert like myself, so you don't really have an example close at hand? I love to read, and I'm a very practical person. I love stories that teach me something, that have an impact on the way I see the world, even when I'm reading fiction. So this translates into my current book How to Start a Conversation and Make Friends. Did I just admit that? Yes, the title does make me sound desperate, and socially awkward, but I'm not above reading about something I'd like to get better at. Now I'm only two pages in, but I found page 1 very enlightening,

OMG! you mean that is why I don't meet people? Really? I thought keeping my arms folded was a way of saying I am totally uncomfortable in this situation and I just really need a hug right now so I'm hugging my self for comfort, nope! huge surprise.

So if I see you in the grocery store, or church, or on the street, wherever, and attempt to make conversation, be kind, I'm a beginner, I promise to get better with practice. And just in case you need clarification, I'm not coming out of the rainbow closet. I'm coming out of the closet you pass through to become authentically you, to be unafraid of who you really are, and share that person with others because you tell yourself that anybody would be lucky to have a friend like you, and it would be a waste to stay hidden.

Friday, December 27, 2013

The Material and The Spiritual

The night before Christmas Eve I cleaned the main level of our home in the middle of the night. My brother in law said "cleaning with little kids in the house is like trying to pick up in the middle of a tornado" and that's why sometimes its easier to loose the sleep than to clean during the day. Then the next day Christmas Eve, somehow I still had energy and decided to clean the entire basement for the heck of it. This turned out to be totally worth it, (even though none of our guests went downstairs) because I found the battery charger for my camera down there, in a place I never would have looked, which means, I have great pictures of this Christmas to share.

I also didn't have to share my camera with three year old Amy, because Santa brought her a new pink camera. I was a little disappointed it's only got 1.3 megapixels, but it totally makes up for that by letting you play games with head shots you've taken of people. We laughed so hard when Amy took a picture of Grandma face and put it on an animated bodies.

Our traditional Greek dinner turned out great, and I didn't burn anything. Happy tummies, happy faces.

Santa brought Transformers as promised, and so did Papa. :) Hunter and I spent hours yesterday mastering the auto bots. Usually action figures, not my thing, but a transformer is a whole 'nother fascinating story! We loved it!

Then later in the afternoon we all sat around the new pink table and broke out the Easy Bake cookie mix. Later that night Daddy joined in on the fun to help us make fondant covered cakes.

Daddy too was happy with his gift and for the first time in 10 years I managed to surprise him for Christmas, with something he wanted, needed, and loved. Much thanks to my brother in law for picking it out :)

All gifts this year were successful for us, no return shopping, I would say it's our best Christmas yet. But then I always have to bring the guilt into it, the guilt of gosh if we had such a great material Christmas (I've spent more this year than ever) shouldn't we feel guilty that we didn't have a more Christ-centered Christmas?

It's true, I do feel like my heart didn't receive that great revelation I've had other years when I've had a better focus on the Savior. Sure we spent some nights telling the story of the Nativity to our children, watching a Nativity show, and we anonymously dropped off a box of gifts to a neighbor in need, but I still feel like I"m going through the motions with my heart closed. I've always been an all or nothing kind of gal, and I'm sure it would be easier for me to say no gifts this year, we're going to focus on service, random acts of kindness, and learning about the Savior, but I'm not so sure that's the best idea.

I've got to find a balance between the material and spiritual Christmases. All too late I did google and find a wonderful blog with ideas to have a more Christ-centered Christmas. Maybe not quite too late though, maybe I'll roll this into my New Year Resolutions and call it finding ways to have a more Christ-centered year, after all, it doesn't have to be December to look for ways to serve others and have the true spirit of Christmas with us.

And just for fun. .  ..

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

When we have to flex our parenting skills

A child of mine, after being repeatedly told his play date was tomorrow and not today, opted to lie to his teacher about who was picking him up from school, and walk to his friends house, instead of going home with his cousins. All kinds of thoughts about this child's future burst from my brain, like is this the beginning of his rebelliousness? how can we use this to teach him what he did was dishonest? and dangerous? and the embarrassment he caused when I got a call from his friends mother, wondering why he was at her house?  Well, maybe he doesn't need to know about that last one, but boy I felt like today was do or die, like if we didn't handle this right, today, right away, we would loose our innocent five year old forever. I'm sure I'm being overly dramatic about this whole thing, but hey, I can't help the thoughts that run around in my mind.

I'm pretty sure when he saw his Dad hop out of the truck at his friends house, he had the fear of God in his eyes. For the first time ever, a 5 minute timeout would not do, and he was sentenced to his room the rest of the evening. He stayed willingly, and actually took a long nap. Maybe he was tired from his after school excursion. These were followed by one of those Full House heart to heart talks, yep never thought I'd be the mom having one of those, anyways. . . .Being raised in an uber strict household, I always worry if I'm being too harsh with rules and punishment and all, but I think we succeeded in teaching him what he did today was not okay by any standards. Overall I think he's a sweet, caring, diligent kid, so we must be doing some things right, right?

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Having a BahHumBug Moment

Christmas doesn't exactly bring out the best in me when it comes to home decorating. Our house has been under renovations ever since we bought it five years ago. The first year included renovating the master bedroom and bathroom because we bought the house from my in-laws, and it would have been too weird to sleep in "their" bedroom, so we had to make it our own. Next all the wall-paper had to come down, and new paint graced our front entry room and hallway followed by new faux wood floors the year after that. Last year we finished the laundry room, which leaves us with a kitchen and living room remodel, new carpet upstairs and down, two bathrooms and three bedrooms to finish in the basement and in 10 more years we'll be done!

Just in time for the kids to grow into teenagers, enjoy their finished rooms for a couple of years then move out. Life sometimes seems to work backwards (anyway, that's a future post). But at Christmas time I go into hyper remodel mode to have everything just right for our big Greek Christmas Eve dinner with my family, and our in-law breakfast Christmas morning. Of course it never is just right, it's more like as good it gets for this year.

So instead of blogging as much as I could have this week, I've been working out more (which I'm not complaining about, because I'd rather have washboard abs, than washed the dishes, not that I've got/done either?) and I've been painting doors, (hopefully I can find the box of stainless looking door-knobs stashed somewhere in the basement or garage for the last 5 years). I'm happy with my whitewashed doors, I feel like it makes the whole house brighter, lighter and cleaner looking, but I miss the stolen hour here and there when I would read or be inspired to jot something down;  however that won't stop me from attempting to also paint the kitchen and stairwell. And let's not forget finish the Christmas shopping, wrapping, treat making, and gift giving. Am I sounding like the Grinch yet? Only 17 more days till New Years, I'll be glad to have all this busyness behind me.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Update on Hunters school progress

Something finally clicked. Lately Hunter has been putting two and two together. First he came to the realization that if he wants to be an astronaut engineer, he has to learn to read and do good in school. Then secondly this week, he finally understood the reason we're teaching him letters, that when you make the sounds in letters and put them together, they make words! Like today we learned the word pink which he thought was purple at first glance. I told him to say each letter p-i-n-k and immediately he knew it was pink.
To him this is a very novel concept, albeit one that we have been attempting to explain to him the last couple of years. 

Still, I'm so happy he's figured these two things out, it's doing wonders for his motivation to learn and ability to focus. I can now see real daily progress in each of our study session. He is beginning to retain new letters after a couple of days of study instead of several weeks. The same is happening with his sight words. I also saw a break though with counting. He used to 15 every time, even after constant reminders. A couple of weeks ago he mastered counting to 20 and is well on his way to 50. 

He's also remembering simple words in his books from school. When we began reading them I tried explaining to him that the words were the same on every page but had a different action, like "We go to school, we go to the park, we go to bed," and every time we turned the page, even though "we go to" was exactly the same, he could not remember the words. Finally those days are over and he is reading those little books on his own! It's incredible to see his progress and witness him learn to read. Yeah, you could say I'm pretty proud of him. :)

Monday, December 9, 2013

Why we teach our kids to believe in Santa

 I've recently discovered online tonight that not everybody shares my warm feelings about Santa Claus, and have even gone so far as to call parents who teach their children that Santa is real, liars. This made me so sad and I immediately thought of one of my favorite books of all times A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. I think it gives the best reasoning I have ever heard for the importance of believing in Santa Claus.
“Because,” explained Mary Rommely simply, “the child must have a valuable thing which is called imagination. The child must have a secret world in which live things that never were. It is necessary that she believe. She must start out by believing in things not of this world. Then when the world becomes too ugly for living in, the child can reach back and live in her imagination. I, myself, even in this day and at my age, have great need of recalling the miraculous lives of the Saints and the great miracles that have come to pass on earth. Only by having these things in my mind can I live beyond what I have to live for.”
So beautifully put. The world can be an ugly place, and I love that memories of Santa are one of the things that makes my time on earth a little more lovely. This is one of the reasons I've decided to continue the tradition of believing in Santa with my children. I believe the memories of magical Christmases have helped me look for the magical moments that sometimes I could easily overlook as an adult. I count the times I've sat together at the dinner table with family, noticing each smiling face as magic, you know, the hallmark card sort of type. Little moments that happen every day can have that same magic feeling as Christmas does. 

Often during Christmas there are ample opportunities for service as well which also create spiritual feelings related to Christmas. I believe Santa is also an important example of performing service, he sees all children the same and treats every one with love. Santa and the Savior are both examples of loving your neighbor and how we should treat one another. 

However, I don't want to down play the importance of the Saviors birth in any way. He is the most important reason we celebrate Christmas, and our children are very aware of the nativity story and the importance of Jesus in their lives. I don't feel that allowing them to believe in something magical for a time, and seeing the delight on their faces Christmas morning, lessens the joy our children feel when learning about the Savior during this season.

One of my favorite memories was my first Christmas at my aunt Debi's house. It was a ritual of mine to sneak into the living room in the middle of the night in hopes to catch Santa Claus. As I came down the large staircase and tried to see into the foyer I saw red light and was sure it meant Santa was there. I squinted trying to adjust my eyes and sat when I reached the second to last step. 

What I saw was a 3 foot tall Christmas tree with red lights and red decorations. Missed him again I thought, but he’s been here, I know it!  I wonder why he would leave us another tree? It is beautiful though, just exactly the way I would have decorated if it were mine. 

The next morning I discovered that my presents were under this small tree instead of the big one where the adults presents were. I couldn't believe the little tree was actually mine. It was as if Santa had left behind some of his magic. Every year after that I would set up the little tree with the red lights in my bedroom, and revel in the cozy feeling it gave. Of course when I was older I knew the tree was bought by my aunt but the knowledge of that didn't lessen the warm memories it provoked.

I never wanted to stop believing in Santa no matter how old I was. By the time an adult finally broke the news to me, I had already kind of figured Santa was mythical, but I was hoping nobody would tell me the truth so I could continue to pretend he was real. I wanted so much to hold onto one magical thing in my life. Now, I love getting to relive some of that magic through my children's eyes, and hope that they will have wonderful memories from this time of year to look back on as well when they are grown. I do not believe for an instant that believing in Santa detracts them from also feeling reverence towards the Savior and the reasons for his birth.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Do my kids know I love them?

Between yesterday's post and today, I must be feeling really sentimental. . . .

I tell my children I love you, use your inside voices, take your shoes off, brush your teeth, I love you, can I have a kiss? You have stinky breath, pick up your shoes, I love you, let’s read a story, count with me, A says what? Ahhh that’s right, I love you, will you let the dog out, can you go harvest the garden, are you hungry? I love you, do you want to go to the library? What kind of cereal do you want? If you say that one more time you’re going to the time out corner. I love you. I love you. I love you. Do they know? Did they hear it in all my requests, my questions, my orders?

For the child who is getting Transformers for Christmas

I'm thankful for OP (Optimus Prime)

Dear Optimus,

Each morning you softly scuttle into my room to wake me with your agenda. I pretend to be asleep as I listen to you turn on the space heater and make transformer sound effects while you warm your body for the day. I think about where the next hour will take us. Into the kitchen where I will ask if you want cereal, and you will decisively request an eggie sandwich to make you taller. You are so attune to growing healthy, and strong like a transformer. You’ll leave the crust on your plate when you’re done and I’ll try to coax you into the bathroom to brush your teeth. You’ll whine, growl, scream that you don’t want to! then walk to the sink as long as I’ve got my eye on you. When you brush the foam will drip down your chin, you’ll contort your wrist to get to that unreachable side, and I will remind you to spit before your paste lather is on the tile floor. You will run out of the bathroom and beg to watch Optimus Prime in your cardboard box transformer suit. The one you have smeared glitter glue onto, crayon, marker, pencil, paint, daily a new kind of decoration for your precious cardboard body. I lay in bed and wonder if you would believe you are stronger braver more heroic than Optimus, because you are what's real. The pictures you have drawn and taped next to my bed are real. The brother who helps his little sister find her shoes is real. The son who works so hard to learn his letters to be an astronaut engineer is real. You grow a little each day, but I won't admit this when you ask me daily to measure your height. I worry about the day you will become too old for my kisses, while I watch you transform to the tall, strong man you will someday become.

Love, Mom

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

DIY Soap Dispensers

I've spent at least six months grimacing every time I looked at my ugly soap dispensers, and I've finally turned them into something my eyes can tolerate. I should have taken a before picture, because the old ones were really ugly. Oh well, I'm very happy with the results of the new ones, and I couldn't believe how easy they were to make. I just took a nail, tapped a bunch of holes in the lid, then flipped the nail around and hammered the wider head over the tiny holes to create one big hole. I kept it snug so when I pushed the head of the dispenser into the hole it was a tight fit. This way I didn't have to mess with hot glue, because yes I'm too lazy to get out the glue gun, but voila! they are beautiful and functional and made with mason jars, what more could a girl want?

Monday, December 2, 2013

I'm getting an early start on New Year Resolutions

I don't know what it is about December that gets me thinking about all the things I want to improve on, but it happens every year. I get all these ideas about how to reform myself. In the past I have tried to wait until January to implement them, but by then it seems like all my steam is gone, so this year, I'm making changes right now, while the ideas are still fresh in my head.

#1. If you're not loosing weight, you're gaining. In my case, the last few years I seem to be gaining weight, unless I'm actually taking the time to consciously be healthy. So I began today tracking calories with my fitness pal, drinking at least 2 liters of water, and eating 2 servings of fruit and vegetables each per day. Goal -2 lbs per month.

#2. Be better about studying with Hunter. So now I've got a game plan. Instead of picking something random to work on each day, I've made a calendar with four categories plus his 20 minutes of reading to work on each day, with stickers and rewards etc.

#3. Exercise more consistently and add variety. Instead of running 2-3 times per week, I'm going to do 5-6 times per week using my old triathlon training program that I did two years ago. I'm not actually training for a triathlon, but I like the variety of the workouts. As an added bonus of the elbow breaking, I'm attempting to work fewer hours so this should help with making time to exercise more.

#4. Church goals. These same ones are on my list every year. Temple. Family Home Evening. Family Scripture Reading. 'Nuff said.

#5. Be more grateful. We had this amazing lesson in Relief Society about gratitude, and I learned something, "the more grateful you are as a person, the happier you will be". Since I feel like I've finally gotten away from the muck of depression, there are still days that are. . .not so great. But I do have days were I am very happy, and I would like more of those days. I keep a journal and write almost every day anyways, so I'm going to add to it a bullet point list of things I am grateful for that happened throughout the day. I think recognizing all the good in each day will help keep those happy vibes flowing.

So wish me luck! I'll give an update after New Years.